A Sense of Style

Our house is very near the Hayward campus of the California State University system. Every Sunday morning, back in the 70s and 80s, there was a pickup soccer game at the school. The players were an interesting blend of Europeans, Hispanics, Iranians, Afghans, Indians, and even a few local Anglo-Saxons.

Every week, when they were kids, our two sons would head for that soccer field. Amazingly, the adult players, many of whom spoke little or no English, would let everybody play, even 7-year-old Andy and 14-year-old Bob. The kids were also always involved in organized soccer; youth leagues, high school, and ultimately college soccer. But over the years they continued to play in the pickup games.

One of the Sunday players was a bandy-legged little Spaniard named Mira, a soccer nut who seldom missed any soccer game in Hayward. You'd see him at 8 o'clock on a Saturday morning at an under-12 game and then again in the afternoon at the college match - men's team or women's team, it didn't matter, Mira was there.

As they got older, the boys became interested in international soccer which was the big topic of conversation at the Sunday gatherings. The skills and abilities of the best players in the world would be discussed; names like Glenn Hoddle of England, Germany's Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Holland's Johan Cruyff and Argentina's Ossie Ardiles.

To define what separates the very best from mere excellence is not easy. What makes Pavarotti better than Carreras? Montana better than Unitas? Often what it finally comes down to is a sense of greatness that is hard to put into words, and especially difficult for someone whose English isn't so good.

So Mira relied on a succinct observation that has become part of our household lexicon. "E gotta style" (translation: "He has a style") was reserved for only the very best players. To really drive home the point it was "E gotta style, body," or, "He has a style, buddy." So now, when we can't quite express how really good a musician, an athlete, a restaurant, or a person is, we simply resort to "E gotta style." (The “E” is not gender specific.)

This month, in our attempt to tell you why Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne stands above all the other great hotels we have seen in 13 years of publishing Gemütlichkeit, perhaps we should have just left it at "E gotta style, body."

Epilogue: About 10 years ago, Mira, who by then must have been in his 70s, decided to go back to Spain. There was an impromptu little ceremony at the Sunday pickup game and the players chipped in to present him with a special soccer ball. But maybe it's true that you can't "go home again," because just the other day I saw Mira, still barely able to see over the steering wheel of his beat up little car, heading up the hill to the college. No doubt to a soccer game.

Things That Go Bump

I've flown as a passenger on all kinds of aircraft: tiny commuter airplanes; Navy jet fighters; rickety old Navy transports between Kodiak, Alaska, and Adak in the Aleutian Islands; landed and took off from aircraft carriers; rode helicopters that whap-whapped away among Switzerland's highest peaks and along craggy Alaskan coastlines. I also have flown with my brother Bill in his Beechcraft Bonanza and, of course, many times across the Atlantic, including about a dozen trips recently on Swissair's comfortable MD-11s.

With apologies to Bill, the times I've felt the safest are with Swissair on those MD-11s. The only form of transportation that gives me a more secure feeling is a European train.

The events of the summer - the Swissair crash and the German ICE train tragedy - are jolts of reality that remind us of two important rules; don't get too cocky and have fun now. I live by the latter but tend to forget the former. Also, this just in: Swiss airplanes and German trains are as safe as ever but they are built and operated by humans. Don't worry, be happy.

Cheap Winter Travel

The season of cheap and cheaper flights to Europe is upon us. Best Fares website on the Internet sent us the following email on September 25:

"WE HAVE BRAND NEW SALE FARES TO EUROPE. These bargains cover travel through March of 1999. How about New York or Boston to Paris for as little as $264 roundtrip ($198 for kids)? Fly roundtrip from Detroit or Chicago to London for as little as $309 roundtrip ($229 for kids). How about Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston to Rome for as little as $364 roundtrip ($273 for kids)? Book a $419 roundtrip from San Francisco or Los Angeles to destinations including London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Milan or Barcelona."

Be sure, too, to check Swissair. Remember, even on their lowest winter sale fares, Gemütlichkeit subscribers get $50 off per ticket. You must book directly with Swissair, then phone 800-238-0399 for ticketing. That office will verify your subscriber status and issue the tickets at the lower price.

Vevey Festival

In a recent issue we incorrectly had the Vevey Wine Growers Festival taking place in 1998. Subscriber Marge Coughlin reminds us this rare event is scheduled for 1999. The festival takes place once each generation only five times this century, the last in 1977. La Fete Des Vignerons is scheduled for July 29-August 15, 1999. For ticket info and a festival brochure contact Vevey Tourisme, Fete Des Vignerons, CP 27, CH-1800 Vevey.

This is Not a Joke

A press spokesperson at the Austrian Tourist Office in New York says newspaper reports in both Austria and the U.S. that have one M. Lewinsky, a.k.a. "that woman," leading the Vienna Opera Ball's grand entrance parade next February are not true.

September 1998